Billion-Year-Old Carbon

As it is written…

“We are stardust, we are golden
We are billion-year-old carbon
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden”

Joni Mitchel, Woodstock

As a cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy, I would have been an unlikely participant in the 1969 Woodstock music festival at Max Yasgur’s farm even though it was less than 150 miles from my home in the Berkshire Hills.  I was raised in a staunchly conservative environment that perceived the festival through a jaundiced eye.  As time passed, however, I began to see the power of enlightenment through peace and music even though I was schooled as a warrior.

That enlightenment was validated by my friend Father Paul who often quoted those final four lines of Ms. Mitchell’s anthem in his sermons.  By the way, the ‘billion-year-old’ carbon line was not a part of Ms. Mitchell’s original lyrics and was introduced by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young in their recording of the song in 1970.

Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh broke the story of the Vietnam My Lai massacre in November 1969 on the front page of the St. Louis Post Dispatch.  A good friend and squadron mate – we called him Slaz – Scotch-taped the article on his dormitory door.  Slaz did not graduate; he was dismissed from the Academy within a few weeks of his ‘trespass.’  I still communicate with Slaz, and decades later, I’ve admitted to him that he ‘had it right.’

I become more convinced of Slaz’s stance of peace with every war that has erupted and every bullet expended since.  I no longer consider war ‘just.’

As Ms. Mitchell boldly tells us, “We’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.”  It is in our DNA and it is our billion-year-old calling.  It is and will be, “As it is written.”

“We are stardust, we are golden
We are billion-year-old carbon
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden”

Joni Mitchell sings “Woodstock,” 1970


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